The mirror swooshed open and Erik stepped out, for a second he listened carefully for any noise. No-one? Good. Now he could try out his plan in peace.
Today would be one of the happiest days of his life, Erik felt certain. Not that that would be difficult to achieve with the life he’d known. But today was exceptional: Christine Daaé, his wonderful, merciful angel had agreed to have diner with him. Not just any dinner, but a dinner in a restaurant, as a couple!
He had nearly fainted when she said yes.
Obviously Christine would be expecting the date to take place at the Opera, either in her dressing room or in his house. But not this time, Erik felt that Christine deserved better, a true date with all the trimmings. The problem with this was … his face, or rather: the mask. Erik did not wish to embarrass his sweet girl by making her a source of gossip and scorn, which he knew she would be when stepping out with a masked man. In the weeks it took to work up the courage to ask her for a date with him in the world above, Erik had been thinking about this problem a lot, only asking her when he had a plan to make it work. If she said yes, of course, and she did!!
Stepping to the vanity table in three swift steps, Erik sat himself down and gazed into the mirror. A sigh escaped him when he looked at the masked face and the deep set hollow eyes looking back at him.
Minutes ticked away as he sat there, silently. He had planned to sit down and remove his mask immediately, deal with the pain and grief and get it over with. Now he had prolonged the agony.
Hurry up, Christine will be here soon! His mind suddenly warned him. Oh no, he would not want her to see him like this, he had to be ready before she arrived.
Quickly his hand reached up and Erik tore of his mask and dropped it to the floor. Ah, he had done it! Unmasked in front of a mirror. Now all he needed to do was open his eyes and look at himself, but it was as if they had suddenly been glued shut. Annoyed with his behaviour he slapped himself and his eyes flew open. Now he could finally face himself!
It was a shock … he had not seen his own face in decades … not since he was a child.
How old he looked, how tired … how monstrous …The yellowish white parchment like skin, the veins, the thin lips, the hair-loss, the sunken skeletal cheeks, the deep set yellow eyes, accentuated by the large dark circles that had formed beneath them after decades of chronic sleep deprivation, ill health and under-nutrition. And then worst of all, the ironic crowning glory of this horrible face: the gaping hole where a nose should have been, it was glaring at him almost as if it were mocking him. He was hideous, a … a monster!!
Tears started dripping from his eyes. It was hopeless, this would not work at all, Erik thought, and for a second he decided to give up. He had seen enough of himself to last him the rest of his life. How could Christine even bear to be near him?! He would leave, hide in his coffin and just forget about it all. For a second that thought sounded so appealing that Erik started to get up from his chair. But no, he forbid himself, he had made the decision and for Christine’s sake he should try at-least.
Erik wiped his eyes, took a deep shuddering breath and then he looked at all the products Christine had on her table. Over the last few weeks he had studied her routine and was certain about the order they all went in. With a trembling hand he took a small sponge and pored some tonic on it to clean his skin. How he hated looking at himself in that mirror, but he had to, he had to see himself to know what he was doing.
His skin clean and dry he eagerly reached out for the brown substance he had seen Christine use to darken her features when she played a temptress like Carmen. Would he look better with a healthy tan? Please! He prayed.
Carefully he dabbed some of it on his skin. Result!! He appeared a little less corpse like! More!! He thought and more was applied. How wonderful: the dark circles had as good as disappeared and his skin looked almost normal. Rouge next to fill out and plump his face a little. For quite some time over the last few weeks Erik had been studying contouring, often watching the leading men prepare, to know where to add the touches. Then he used a neutral coloured lip pencil to create the illusion of a bigger lip and followed this up with a new wig he had ordered recently: a dark blonde wig which he was convinced would make him look younger and soften his features.
Once the wig was applied Erik took a moment to look in the mirror and take in his new appearance. He was surprised at what he saw: a normal face, well … almost … The gaping hole in the middle was still there, even more obvious now his skin looked so healthy.
From his coat he produced his piece de resistance: a false nose. Not just any type of false nose as you could get in a joke shop, but his own sculpted piece of art. It was a perfect, dignified, Greek nose that he would have been proud of to claim as his own feature.
To make the nose look as real as possible, he had decided to glue it to his face. Tying it with string would make it look cheep and fake, reminding Christine that his appearance was just an illusion. All the actors usually used skin glue if their performance required a fake nose or beard, so he would too, just a little stronger. He wanted the nose to stay on as long as possible. Eagerly Erik lathered the end of the nose with the glue, he could barely wait for it to set. He so longed to see his new appearance. What would it be like to see himself as a normal man?
After what seemed like hours, the glue had thickened just a little bit and the nose was ready to be placed onto his face. For a brief moment Erik glanced into the mirror at his sad noseless facade to have the image imprinted for when the nose would be there. He wanted to relish in the difference. Then he put his new nose in place.
The moment he attached the nose to his face Erik hissed in pain, as the glue immediately seemed to burn into his skin. Oh, he had forgotten how paper thin the integument of his face was. The pain was almost unbearable and it was only the thought of his make up smearing that stopped him from weeping with agony. His breathing hitched a little, but he tried to calm himself valiantly.
Maybe the pain was a good thing, Erik decided: the deeper the glue burned, the better the nose was attached. The pain would pass, it would fade as the glue set, he assured himself.
As he waited for the glue to dry Erik hummed softly as he rocked himself, his arms wrapped tightly around his thin body, forcing his mind of the pain and the panic attack that was bubbling inside of him after of all the emotions he’d been through.
A happy Christine Daaé was softly singing to herself as she walked the halls of the Opera house. It wasn’t often that she felt as blissfully happy as she did today, but tonight would be very special, she was certain. Erik had asked her on a date, a real date! He had sworn to her that he did not mean a pick-nick by the lake or anything in or on the roof of the Opera house but that they would actually go outside!! For a while she had wondered if he truly meant it or even truly wanted it: she knew that Erik never ventured away from the Opera, that it physically scared him to be amongst people; but Erik had assured her that it would all be wonderful. Then yesterday he told her there would be a surprise for her in her dressing-room tonight. Christine could hardly wait to see what all this could mean!!
Her happiness evaporated when she entered her dressing-room and stopped in shock: there was a man at her vanity, touching her make up!! How did he get in there, when the door was locked? Only Erik … Erik? She squinted her eyes: the thin long limbs, the graceful movement? But his suit was not Erik’s style: it was blue velvet, his hair did not suit him, it was dark blonde, Erik’s should be dark brown or black.
When he turned around Christine gasped: It was Erik!! But what had he done? Erik looked like an over eager actor doing make up for the first time: his face too dark, his cheeks plumped with far too much rouge, his lips overdrawn and … how did he get that nose?
“Erik … what ... how … why?” Christine was not even sure what to say!! Was this her surprise? If it was he had succeeded: she was truly surprised!!
From her vanity chair Erik beamed at her through his make up, his eyes gazing up at her brimming with hope and love.
“Do you like it Christine? I did it for you, because … I want to take you out on a real date as a real man would!”
Immediately Christine’s mouth snapped shut. There was no way she could ridicule him and she was glad she had not laughed out loud. He was so eager to please and sounded so hopeful. The poor man, she couldn’t even imagine how hard it must have been for him to look in the mirror and prepare himself for this date.
As a real man would, he said. Poor Erik, always running himself down. He was a real man, a human just like her and she loved him the way he was. He did not need to change himself for her and she hoped she had not given him cause to think otherwise. If he had to go through all this to go outside with her … she’d much rather stay with him in the Opera.
But she said nothing, not wanting to spoil his joy.